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Oral medication for type 2 diabetes: one step closer with the help of a nanocarrier

multifunctional carrier


31 August 2015

A multifunctional nanocarrier holding anti-diabetic drugs slips right through the biological barriers along the gastrointestinal tract and delivers the medicine to the target.

Oral drug delivery is still the most used and popular route of administration of medicines because it is cost-effective and easy to use. On the other hand, the effect of orally administered peptides and proteins is significantly reduced because the gastrointestinal tract has several biological barriers.

Interest in orally delivered drugs for type 2 diabetes is increasing with the predicted steep increase of the disease in the future. Dr. Hélder A. Santos' and Professor Jouni Hirvonen’s groups from the Faculty of Pharmacy, and their collaborators have now developed a new multifunctional and pH-responsive drug carrier system consisting of different polymeric and porous biomaterials. The system can simultaneously deliver peptides and enzymatic inhibitors in a single carrier, which is able to resist the conditions of the stomach.

"The system can also enhance the nanoparticle's interactions with the intestinal mucus and epithelium, and protect the peptides from enzymatic degradation after the release in the intestine. The peptide without a carrier degrades in less than two minutes in the intestine by a peptidase," says Dr. Santos.

The anti-diabetic peptide tested was glucagon-like peptide-1, which is in process for the type 2 diabetes therapy. Because of its poor intestinal permeability, the peptide needs to be administrated by injections, which does not make it easy to use for patients themselves.

"After this, peptides are expected to increase their bioavailability and efficiency in vivo both by their specific release at the intestinal level and by the reduced enzymatic activity, "describes Dr. Santos.

Dr. Santos' and Hirvonen’s groups worked together in this study with collaborators in the University of Turku (Finland) and in the University Porto, INEB (Portugal).


Francisca Araújo, Neha Shrestha, Mohammad-Ali Shahbazi, Dongfei Liu, Bárbara Herranz-Blanco, Ermei M. Mäkilä, Jarno J. Salonen, Jouni T. Hirvonen, Pedro L. Granja, Bruno Sarmento* and Hélder A. Santos*, Microfluidic Assembly of a Multifunctional Tailorable Composite System Designed for Site Specific Combined Oral Delivery of Peptide Drugs, ACS Nano 2015, 9(8), 8291–8302. DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.5b02762


The study was supported by Dr. Santos' ERC Starting Grant, the Portuguese funds through the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT), Academy of Finland (decision nos. 252215 and 281300), the University of Helsinki Research Funds, the Biocetrum Helsinki, and the Finnish Center for International Mobility (grant no. TM-13-9048).